Monday, July 24, 2017

The List by Patricia Forde

Forde, Patricia. The List. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2017. 978-1-492-64796-6. 368 p. $16.99. Gr. 6 and up.



From the Publisher: 


In the city of Ark, speech is constrained to five hundred sanctioned words. Speak outside the approved lexicon and face banishment. The exceptions are the Wordsmith and his apprentice Letta, the keepers and archivists of all language in their post-apocalyptic, neo-medieval world.

On the death of her master, Letta is suddenly promoted to Wordsmith, charged with collecting and saving words. But when she uncovers a sinister plan to suppress language and rob Ark’s citizens of their power of speech, she realizes that it’s up to her to save not only words, but culture itself.
   

My Review: 




I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Ark is a gated post-apocalyptic community that only survives because of the extreme planning and strict rationing of John Noah, Ark's founding leader. With food, water, and even words strictly limited to only what is essential, life is not always easy. Sentences like "We ready now." and "I no wait." are considered speaking in List and take some getting used to. Reading List sometimes requires more than one glance

Letta lives in Ark and is the apprentice to the Wordsmith, a highly respected job. Almost immediately, her master Benjamin, the Wordsmith, heads out on a journey for a few days to hunt for new words to be preserved. This is considered a typical task of the Wordsmith. Letta is left behind to run the shop, where she transcribes boxes of List words for the Ark teacher, and creates special request List words for various trades.

Shortly after Benjamin leaves, an injured boy enters the shop, requesting a box of List words. Though she does not recognize him, Letta is intrigued by Marlo, and without thinking she quickly hides him before the gavvers (police or military equivalent) arrive. As she attempts to nurse Marlo back to health, Letta learns information about life outside of Ark, and she begins to question all she's ever known. Thus begins Letta's dissent from Ark.  

THOUGHTS: As a former English teacher, my mind was racing with fun activities for using this book in the classroom: What words would be on your list? Could you figure out all of the words on Ark's list? Would you eliminate/add any words to Ark's list? The focus on the importance of words can lead to many great discussions, regardless of age. Though this book is marketed as middle grade, I could absolutely see using it in a high school classroom. 

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

Zentner, Jeff. Goodbye Days. Crown Books for Young Readers, 2017. 978-0-553-52406-2. 405 p. $17.99. Gr. 10 and up.


From the Publisher: 

What if you could spend one last day with someone you lost?

One day Carver Briggs had it all—three best friends, a supportive family, and a reputation as a talented writer at his high school, Nashville Academy for the Arts.

The next day he lost it all when he sent a simple text to his friend Mars, right before Mars, Eli, and Blake were killed in a car crash.

Now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident, and he’s not the only one. Eli’s twin sister is trying to freeze him out of school with her death-ray stare. And Mars’s father, a powerful judge, is pressuring the district attorney to open a criminal investigation into Carver’s actions.

Luckily, Carver has some unexpected allies: Eli’s girlfriend, the only person to stand by him at school; Dr. Mendez, his new therapist; and Blake’s grandmother, who asks Carver to spend a Goodbye Day with her to share their memories and say a proper goodbye to his friend.

Soon the other families are asking for a Goodbye Day with Carver, but he’s unsure of their motives. Will they all be able to make peace with their losses, or will these Goodbye Days bring Carver one step closer to a complete breakdown or—even worse—prison?
 

My Review: 




Goodbye Days begins with Carver (aka Blade) attending the funerals of his three best friends - Mars, Eli, and Blake. Together, the four of them made up "Sauce Crew," and without them Carver is facing a long, lonely summer and a potential trial. 

Though his older sister Georgia is a much needed distraction, she has her own life at the University of Tennessee. After Carver suffers from a panic attack, Georgia helps Carver begin his healing by taking him to see therapist Dr. Mendez. It seems the only people that truly knew Carver were his now deceased friends. Readers are slowly introduced to each friend through flashbacks memories Carver shares. 

Carver and Eli's girlfriend Jesmyn sit together at one of the funerals and through their shared grief become friends. Over the course of the book, Carver is able to lean on Jesmyn and open up more about his friendships and his guilt. 

It is Blake's grandmother (who raised Blake) who presents the idea of a Goodbye Day to Carver. At first he isn't sure, but he eventually concedes. Together they share memories of Blake, learn things they didn't know about him, and truly begin the process of healing. Word of Carver's Goodbye Day spreads to the other families, and eventually he has very different Goodbye Days with each. 

THOUGHTS: People who know me will tell you Goodbye Days is a book just for me. I find the heartbreaking books to be most compelling. Having lost a best friend in my mid-20's (to a terminal illness), I found the voice of Carver's grief to be very authentic. Readers will be torn between pulling for him in the pending legal mess and feeling frustrated or angry with the choice he made to text a friend who was driving. While Goodbye Days is part cautionary tale, it is more about consequences, grief, and moving on after loss. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Solo by Kwame Alexander

Alexander, Kwame and Mary Rand Hess. Solo. Blink, 2017. 978-0-310-76183-9. 464 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.


From the Publisher: 

Solo, a YA novel in poetic verse, tells the story of seventeen-year-old Blade Morrison, whose life is bombarded with scathing tabloids and a father struggling with just about every addiction under the sun—including a desperate desire to make a comeback. Haunted by memories of his mother and his family’s ruin, Blade’s only hope is in the forbidden love of his girlfriend. But when he discovers a deeply protected family secret, Blade sets out on a journey across the globe that will change everything he thought to be true.   

My Review: 




I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Blade is a seventeen year old who has grown up living the life of a rock star legend's son - the good and the bad sides. He's had everything he could ever want, but he grew up in the public eye with paparazzi watching out for every misstep. His life hasn't been without tragedy either. At nine he lost his mother, and his father lost himself to addictions. Blade and his sister grew up with broken promises of sobriety. 

When his father literally crashes one of the biggest moments of his life, Blade has had enough. He's witnessed enough broken promises to fill a lifetime and cannot forgive his father this time. Blade begins to question everything he has known when a deeply hidden family secret comes to light. A journey from the hills of Hollywood to a village in Ghana may be just what he needs to rediscover who Blade Morrison is and for what he stands.

THOUGHTS: Like Alexander's sports themed The Crossover and Kicked, Solo is told in verse. With the music inspired characters, this time the story is interspersed with song lyrics, many by main character Blade Morrison. Fans of music, especially rock and roll, will appreciate the references and lyrics. Within the short lines, there is much more than music. Family contentions, addiction and substance abuse, as well as one's identity are all pieces of the puzzle. This book has so much more to offer all readers, and reluctant readers especially will enjoy its brief verse style.